LONDON — For those who followed Austria and Germany through the group stage at Euro 2022, there was only one route to this quarter-final on paper. Ahead of the game at Brentford Community Stadium, analysts agreed on how the two sides would line up and how Germany would dominate the ball, allowing Austria to maintain solid defensive form and try to score into the break.
At least that should happen. However, as the game settled into a first-half rhythm, it was Austria who saw the better chances and it was Austria who panicked the opposition in defence.
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Described by Chelsea manager Emma Hayes (who served as ESPN analyst at the tournament) as the “best of the rest” outside of the top five teams in the world, Austria finally showed the attacking football that Irene Fuhrmann was keen to instill in her team. Even when Germany took the lead after 25 minutes from a low shot by Lina Magull, the back team only increased their offensive efforts.
As one of the best teams in the group stage, Germany played all three games with flying colors, adapting their style to their opponents and being just as comfortable with the ball as they were without it. A nation with a breathless European pedigree, having previously won the Euros eight times, was the assumption there would have been a team if it was likely to progress through the knockout rounds The team. However, the more Austria pushed, the weaker Germany seemed.
For all Austria’s offensive will, the nation, which only played in the second European Cup quarter-finals, could not find a way to score, the team with the unfortunate distinction of being second in this tournament to hit the woodwork several times (three times to be exact) in one Game. The balls in Brentford appeared to be magnetized, Germany had previously hit the frame of the goal three times in the opening game at the same stadium. Austria’s effort was underestimated but painfully close for the team looking to eliminate the Germans.
It’s often said that alongside skill and talent you need luck to win trophies, Germany had shown great skill and talent in their group games and it was luck at Brentford that put them fifth in the world rankings. The team was uncomfortable on defense but was saved by the woodwork and their own poor finishing kept the game balanced.
“This is football. It’s an inch left or right, but I can’t fault my team. They tried everything, we had periods where we really challenged Germany and we have to build on that and now we have to get involved. ” New players and veterans have to stay on the ball and I believe that we will have a great future with this national team,” said Fuhrmann.
As the clock ticked down to the inevitable, the game began to stretch, both teams missed good chances, neither Merle Frohms nor Manuela Zinsberger could relax. When Klara Bühl missed her chance to end the match late in the evening, the team in red could breathe a sigh of relief when the ball trickled past the goal. The relief was short-lived, however, as Alex Popp scored four goals in as many games that summer when she blocked Zinsberger’s clearance, the ball bouncing off the veteran and ending in the back net.
“It was a bit annoying [hitting the cross bar] But I think we played really well in the first 15-20 minutes and if we had scored the first goal it would have been much better for us,” said Austria’s Laura Feiersinger. “But today Germany scored the first goal and it was very difficult for us. When you’re behind you try and try again and again, but Germany are a good team so they make it very difficult for you… I think we were a bit unlucky.”
It was an ugly goal but oddly fitting for the game, both teams had their chances and neither was able to take them, the failed ending was symptomatic of the occasion. The pressure of knockout football is evident with a German side who have been noticeably off pace in tournaments of late. The game against Austria full of defiance and joy, another EURO appearance with little outside expectation on their shoulders, the freedom to go out and play without fear to show their best football.
“We expected them to be very strong but we just weren’t brave enough to do what we wanted. We needed to play more balls behind their back line but we can look at that and learn from it. They have something pressed differently than.” in the past few games, so it was good that we were able to get a 1-0 lead, that gave us a little more security for the rest of the game,” said national coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg.
In the end it was the measurable margins, the width of a bar, the biggest difference between the two nations that evening. Lucky with the Germans on a night they needed something to convince them of their own sub-par football. The game is a lesson that Voss-Tecklenburg and their players will have to learn from in the short amount of time available before their semi-final against France or the Netherlands.
“We weren’t always the best team, we weren’t always the favourites, but we always found a way to survive and with every game we built the momentum,” said ESPN analyst Steffi Jones, a world champion with Germany who also coached the team.
With the former champions off balance for the first time in the tournament, there is much for Voss-Tecklenburg and her team to analyze ahead of the next game. They need to focus on their own mistakes on Thursday rather than finding the best ways to take advantage of their next opponent.